Remembering the Four-Four-Deuce. (The U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII.)

My parents had wanted to see Hacksaw Ridge, but they weren’t able to catch it in the theater… so we all watched it together in our living room when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Callaghan and I were eager to see it again, and we liked it even more on second viewing. Mom and Dad also enjoyed the movie.

Hacksaw Ridge is a World War II film, and it’s an important one for an unusual reason: it tells the true story of a young American man who joins the army as a conscientious objector, refusing to touch a weapon, but determined to make it to the front line as a combat medic. He was eventually allowed to complete basic training without rifle qualification. After finishing skill training, he was sent to Japan with an infantry regiment. There, the regiment fought the Japanese in the Battle of Okinawa atop the treacherous Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the extraordinary story of an extraordinary man whose extraordinary valor saved many lives.

As I watched the scenes of Americans fighting the Japanese, it brought to my mind, as a Japanese-American, another WWII story: that of the United States Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion. This infantry regiment was also extraordinary, and also for an unusual reason: the unit was comprised mostly of Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans, mostly from Hawaii.

I say “as a Japanese-American” because I’m not sure how many Americans in the general population are aware that there was a United States Army infantry regiment of Japanese-Americans fighting during WWII. As a Japanese-American, I’m aware of it, as it’s a part of our history in this country.

And it’s an important part of our history… not just in Japanese-American history, but in United States history, and in Hawaii’s history: the WWII Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd went on to become a key factor in Hawaii gaining statehood. As intoned by narrator Gerald McRaney in The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers, “On August 21, 1959, largely because of the Nisei soldiers, Hawaii became the 50th state.”

*****

American Desmond Doss (subject of Hacksaw Ridge) wanted to serve his country in wartime, but almost wasn’t permitted to do so because of his refusal to touch a firearm. Second-generation Japanese-American men also wanted to serve their country during the same wartime, but almost weren’t permitted to do so because of their Japanese ancestry.

It was a time when Japanese-Americans on the mainland were forced into incarceration… because of their ethnicity.

*****

The only ethnic Americans are Native Americans.

To say that we’re “American” is to describe our nationality – who we are as a nation. Americans are Irish-American, for instance… or African-American, or Japanese-American, or German- or Italian-American. Americans are Polish-American, Franco-American, Korean-American. Americans are Arab-American. And because of the ethnic diversity that characterizes our country, we’re a nation with a proud “mutt” population: many of us are of mixed ethnicity.

Our ancestry does not define who we are nationality-wise.

But during WWII, Japan was our enemy, and Japanese-Americans had the misfortune of looking like the enemy. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the incarceration of west coast Japanese-Americans, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans removed from their homes and placed in the internment camps. Houses and businesses were confiscated. Families were broken apart. Living conditions in the camps were poor to horrendous; many internees were forced to live in horse stables, and all of them behind barbed wire fences patrolled by armed guards.

Not a single Japanese-American was ever found to be guilty of espionage.

Now, today, there are some amongst us who would like to repeat this shameful part of American history. They would like to round up innocent Arab-Americans and imprison them, just as Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during WWII.

*****

My parents are from Japanese-American families in Hawaii, some of which moved to the mainland to settle in California. While parts of these earlier branches of my family in California were incarcerated in the internment camps, two* of my uncles from Hawaii volunteered to fight in the United States Army as members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion.

When one of those uncles passed away in 2006, a retired veteran found his obituary, read that he was a WWII veteran of the 442nd, and contacted his son, my cousin. The gentleman told my cousin he would ensure that his Dad was recognized with the appropriate ceremony: a military funeral service. And so my Uncle’s casket was draped with the American flag and carried to his gravesite in the presence of an honor guard, and a bugle playing “Taps.”

*****

In 2011, Japanese-American WWII veterans – more than 19,000 of them – were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in a mass ceremony.

In the article “Unlikely World War II Soldiers Awarded Nation’s Highest Honor,” Barbara Maranzani details the extent of the Nisei’s wartime achievements:

“The 442nd became the most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. In less than two years of combat, the unit earned more than 18,000 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 21 Medals of Honor. Upon their return to the United States, they were praised by President Harry Truman for their brave stand both home and abroad, and were even the subject of a 1951 film, “Go for Broke”; the film’s title was derived from the unit’s official slogan. Many members of the 442nd went on to distinguished careers in science, academia and government, including nine-term U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, who lost an arm due to World War II combat injuries and was among those attending Wednesday’s event.”

 

 

*****

Many Japanese-Americans were already serving in the armed forces when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. When the attack occurred, Japanese-Americans were as horrified as any other American, and in Hawaii, especially, Japanese-American men wanted to join the armed forces to fight for their country.

To this day, Japanese-Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces. I’m proud to have been one of them.

My Dad directed me to the above-mentioned documentary from the History Channel. If you’re interested, watching it will be worth your while:

The History Channel presents Most Decorated: The Nisei Soldiers

 

 

Japanese-Americans’ wartime service didn’t begin and end with the 442nd: in addition to the 442nd, thousands of Japanese-Americans also had roles in the army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) during WWII. These Japanese-Americans “provided translation and interrogation assistance to the war effort. The MIS is perhaps best known for the crucial role it played in deciphering a captured set of Japanese military documents, known as the ‘Z Plan,’ which outlined plans for a final, large-scale counterattack on Allied forces in 1944. The discovery of the Z Plan has been hailed as one of the most important military intelligence successes of World War II.”

[source: http://www.history.com/news/unlikely-world-war-ii-soldiers-awarded-nations-highest-honor]

*****

Valor comes in unexpected forms. It comes in the form of a young man who wants to serve unarmed on the front line of a bloody battle. It comes in the form of men who want to serve despite looking like the enemy, thus feared, maligned, and betrayed by their own country as Japanese-Americans were incarcerated because of their ethnicity.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the 100th Infantry Battalion in WWII was the face of Japanese-Americans’ loyalty to their country. It was a loyalty they proved in bloody campaign after bloody campaign, national pride a stronger force than the racism that tried to oppress them.

*[Editing to add: since posting this piece, my family has remembered at least two more uncles who joined the 442nd. Two of them were incarcerated in internment camps in California when they volunteered.]

SHAKA beach workout in Hawaii! Capoeira-inspired! (But still a garage gym post.)

[Edited To Add: Pidgin English ahead! The pidgin words and phrases are in italics!]

It’s Friday! Howzit?!

Essential elements in Sunday’s beach workout: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a partner-in-crime with a willingness to take pics, and a nephew whose photobomb game is hilariously ON. You’ll see da pictures!

Knowing that I was going to miss three workouts while in Hawaii, I intended to slip one in somewhere. When there’s a beach in front of your rented condo, no can work out anywhere else, yeah? I mean, why would you?

Neither could I help but keep it light. No to da max this time. I was on a beach in one of my favorite childhood places, on the Pacific, my favorite large body of salt water. My workout wasn’t hardcore by any means, but whatevahs. “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” – !

Was good fun!

There was no plan other than fo’ do da kine. A little shadow-boxing. I jumped in and went with the flow, and the flow swerved in the direction of capoeira, because, I guess, the setting invited it. You play capoeira… it’s a game, not a fight. Energetically speaking, capoeira makes more sense on the beach than anywhere, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t train in capoeira for very long, but I loved it and still love it. I practice the techniques here and there. Why no do it more often? I should do it more often!

Anyway, enough talking story. Here are just a few pics from my mostly capoeira-inspired beach workout. You’ll notice that I mixed it up with a little Muay Thai:

 

Warming up: squats

Warming up: squats

 

Warming up: lunges

Warming up: lunges

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Burpees

Burpees

 

Sprawl (from burpee)

Sprawl (from burpee)

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

Hanging loose with my nephew!

Hanging loose with my nephew!

 

Front kick chamber

Front kick chamber

 

Bencao (push kick)

Bencao (push kick)

 

Roundhouse chamber

Roundhouse chamber

 

Ginga

Ginga

 

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

 

We had other pics that showed better execution of this esquiva, but I chose this one because HELLO, epic photobomb. (Click to enlarge!)

 

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

 

Spinning back elbow

Spinning back elbow

 

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

 

AH hahaha!! I seriously love my nephew.

 

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

 

(Cringing at my form here… I should be lower, closer to the ground for this one, yeah? Gah.)

 

Resting

Resting

 

I finished the workout with a dive into the water and a 10 minute swim for a little more cardio – I like frog stroke – then floated for a minute to rest. Or, I tried to float. I don’t float well. (I sink.) Regardless, it felt fantastic! Callaghan said he likes this pic because I look like an otter. I suppose this is a compliment of some sort.

 

"Walking off" - ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

“Walking off” – ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

 

All pau! Mahalo for reading.

I went to Hawaii and ate all the plants.

We flew back in quite late last night after four days out of town, and a busy four days, it was! We took a family trip to Hawaii, where my parents were born and raised, and where, in the homes of extended family scattered across three islands, I spent most of my summers growing up. In my adulthood, I’ve only visited my family on the island of Oahu, because that’s where my parents live half the time. My one adult visit to the island of Maui had been at the end of the 90’s when we went to Grandpa’s memorial service. Last week’s long-overdue return to Maui was also for a special family event, but a happy one this time: my brother’s wedding!

We had a fantastic visit with my parents, brother, and nephew, and we got to know new family members and friends, all lovely human beings. It was an enjoyable way to flex my minuscule extrovert muscles a bit! We stayed with my parents and nephew in a condo we rented in Kihei, a place rich with memories of my favorite beaches on Maui (and my one interesting encounter with a Portuguese Man O’War). We braved the mad tourist bustle of old-town Lahaina only twice, both for wedding-related events, including the wedding, itself. Well, the wedding wasn’t exactly in Lahaina… it was on a boat, but the boat departed from Lahaina.

The highlight of the trip was the wedding, of course, but I also wanted to show Callaghan as much of Maui as possible in the four days we had. He’d been to Oahu with me, but never to Maui, and I’d spent more time there at my grandparents’ house than anywhere. Thanks to my brother and parents, we were able to drive up to Hana (on the infamous Road, which is more of an attraction than Hana, itself, if you ask me – it’s an exhilarating ride, and there are fabulous places to visit along the way. More on that later!), attend a luau, and hit the haleakala volcano crater. The first important thing we did was visit a few precious sites in Kahului, Mom’s hometown. The last important thing we did was go to the beach, where I did a little training (beach workout post forthcoming!) and swimming.

Callaghan loved it. He was also fascinated to hear that a Jurassic Park helicopter scene (view) was filmed over the rain forests around the road to Hana.

It was good times.

I ended up with more pics than I could prepare all at once, but they’ll get captured in the next few posts. For this first installment, I’ll show you some of the things I ate during the trip, as a few of you were interested in seeing what a person can eat in Hawaii other than seafood and Kalua pig.

Without further ado, take a gander at what I ate on Maui, if you’re so inclined!

 

I had fruit on the flight going over:

 

Breakfast on the airplane

Breakfast on the airplane

 

For dinner at Monkeypod, I ordered the delicious fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad (Maui onion, golden raisins, Mandarin oranges, organic waihe’e macadamia nuts, miso sesame vinaigrette):

 

At Monkeypod restaurant: Fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad

At Monkeypod restaurant: Fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad

 

For dinner at the luau, I had garden salad, taro leaf stew, stir-fried vegetables, pohole salad (fern shoots, Maui onions, tomatoes), and pineapple:

 

Dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau

Dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau

 

For dinner at the BBQ my brother, his wife, and her family hosted at their house, I had salad, veggie kabobs, a little rice, and a few small potatoes:

 

Dinner at the BBQ

Dinner at the BBQ

 

(Plate of fresh fruit for dessert not pictured)

For lunch at Ono Organic Farms along the road to Hana, we enjoyed the plethora of exotic fruit we tasted, some of which I’d never even heard of. My favorite was the rambutan, the barbed red fruit. I don’t remember the name of the spiky white fruit, but it was good, too:

 

Fresh organic fruit at Ono Organic Farms

Fresh organic fruit at Ono Organic Farms

 

For lunch at Zippy’s (it’s like a Denny’s; this one in Kahului is the first and only Zippy’s on Maui. I’d only been to Zippy’s on Oahu), I ordered their veggie-tofu burger, which I ate open-faced on a whole wheat bun:

 

Zippy's veggie-tofu burger

Zippy’s veggie-tofu burger

 

We also had lunch at good old Taco Bell one day, where I got the power menu burrito bowl. It’s like a Chipotle burrito bowl, but better, in my opinion! Black beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and six packets of diablo sauce:

 

Taco Bell power menu burrito bowl

Taco Bell power menu burrito bowl

 

And for lunch at Honolulu international airport heading home, we went to Chow Mein Express and had tofu, eggplant, and steamed white rice (they didn’t have brown). This was by far the best airport fast-food I’ve ever had:

 

Honolulu International Airport fast food: Chow Mein Express

Honolulu International Airport fast food: Chow Mein Express

 

During the trip, I also had a variety of protein/nutrition bars, raw nuts, and whole grain breads to fill in gaps. For breakfast, I had Dave’s power seed bread with coconut peanut butter (two ingredients: peanuts and coconut!):

 

Coconut peanut butter

Coconut peanut butter

 

A lot of wonderful local plants were consumed. But don’t worry… I did save some for the dinosaurs! The veggiesaurs.

Adding to the chatter about cat-calling (a personal take)

I’ve been walking to work lately. Three days a week, I walk home, too. It’s an enjoyable mile and a half each way, straight down the street. I could take the bus, but I prefer walking. I also routinely (at least once a day) walk through downtown to get to meetings and work sessions, since my department is headquartered on the university campus, but my office is in a building on Mill Avenue. One by-product of all this walking is that some people on the street – some “regulars,” likely homeless, and some random – pay a lot of attention to me.

For instance, the other day, a guy passing me coming from the opposite direction called out: “You’re as beautiful as ever!”

And I’ve been kind of perplexed ever since, because did I feel offended, demeaned, or dehumanized in any way as a result of this attention? No, I did not. I was not offended, and I was keenly aware of my indifference because according to the entire internet, I should have been offended. There’s a lot of discussion about cat-calling circulating around social media at the moment, and it all simmers down to: “Any type of attention a guy pays a woman in public is negative, even if it sounds like a sincere compliment, and everyone should be outraged by it.” So, perversely, the main thing I felt as a result of being cat-called that particular day was a tinge of weird guilt for not being offended, much less outraged.

Does that make any sense?

The truth is, sure, there are times when I actually am offended by guys on the street whistling and calling out to me… and there are other times, like the other day, that I’m not. It just depends.  It depends on what is said, and how it’s said, and it depends on my mood, and maybe even on what I had for lunch that day. I don’t know. It just depends. For me, there’s no hard-and-fast rule regarding taking offense at cat-calling. Not all cat-calling bothers me. It is what it is, and it’s odd to feel like I have to be apologetic about it.

Let me share an experience I had when I was a kid. This is an example of a case in which I did feel dehumanized by strangers, and it illustrates one of many variations on an incident I’ve experienced over and over throughout my life.

My family vacationed on the east coast the summer I was 14. When we were in Washington D.C., we visited the Smithsonian Institute. One day, toward the late afternoon, I decided to go outside to sit and wait while my parents and brother were still in the museum (I don’t remember which museum).

There was a reason for this, but I don’t remember what. My feet hurt? I had a headache? I needed some alone-time? Whatever the case, I was contentedly occupying a bench on the lovely, park-like grounds of the museum when a couple meandered over my way. They were obviously tourists, too, and older, maybe in their late 50’s or early 60’s.

First, they stopped in front of me from a short distance and looked at me quizzically with smiles on their bright faces as they murmured to each other. I glanced around. No one else was there. It looked like they were examining me and talking about me because… they were!

It was a surreal moment of feeling like I was still in the Smithsonian, but enclosed inside a glass case.

Then the pair came closer, and sure enough:

“Hello,” said the man.

“Hi,” I responded, guardedly.

Then the woman:

“What are you?”

Emphasis on the “are,” as if the “what” was no big deal. Smiling, eyes twinkling, the gentle tone and lilt at the end of the interrogative… there was genuine interest and wonderment in their voices. They were fascinated.

I didn’t say anything for a few seconds as my brain processed the question. “What are you” is a question I’d been asked before by random strangers, and it always made me feel scrutinized, alienated, and just plain uncomfortable.

I knew from past experience what they wanted to know. I mentally shrugged my shoulders in resignation and answered simply that I’m half-Japanese, half-English, and waited for the predictable follow-up, which the woman provided on cue: “OH… that’s such a beautiful combination! You’re so beautiful!” And the gushing began, the effusive admiration of my looks, along with the picking apart and analyzing of my features, which ones were Asian, which ones were not, etcetera, ad nauseam. Looking back on it, I still don’t understand the reason for their interest and excitement, exactly. I was just a tired kid sitting on a bench. I remember thinking that their accents sounded mid-western.

Now, here’s the thing… as a female of mixed color, incidents like this with (white) strangers are far more offensive to me than any guy on the street simply telling me that I’m beautiful and continuing on his way.

Both the guy on the street the other day and the pair of tourists on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institute over 30 years ago trespassed into my personal space to comment on my looks, but the guy told me that I was beautiful in passing. The couple at the Smithsonian, on the other hand, approached me while I was sitting on a bench (I felt pinned down), carefully examined me (I felt naked), talked about me (I felt like I wasn’t there), asked me what I was (I felt inhuman), and then told me that I was beautiful, after which they waxed euphoric on the aesthetic merits of being of mixed heritage (I felt objectified).

So, let me get this straight: It’s inherently dehumanizing to be asked what you are, but it happens all the time, anyway, to the concern of no one… and I’m supposed to be offended and feel dehumanized when a dude walking by tells me that I’m beautiful? Really?

To be clear, I’m not defending these guys. I’m not making light of street harassment. I’m not saying that it’s okay to cat-call or wolf-whistle at women on the street, I’m not denying that such behavior has potential to escalate into something more sinister, and I’m certainly not implying that women “overreact” to this kind of unwanted attention. I’m just saying that in the broader context of the dehumanizing things people can say to other people, and in my lifelong experience of being approached by strangers in public, I didn’t feel dehumanized in the case of the scrappy white kid in downtown Tempe, Arizona, whereas I did feel dehumanized by the nice, retired white couple in front of a museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

As I’ve already stated, there are some instances of cat-calling that do annoy me, and I also admit that I now try to avoid walking by certain spots at certain times because I know that some of my “regular” street fans will be there, and I’m tired of them. But even then, those guys merely annoy me. They don’t give me the heebie-jeebies like the people who prefaced their “compliment” with What are you? (“I’m human” is always the first answer that comes to mind.)

I’ve tried to laugh off these incidents, and this is a part of the bigger reason why I named this blog “That Asian-Looking Chick.” Sometimes, all you can do is laugh at stuff like that, especially since no one is addressing this shockingly common occurrence that people of mixed color have to deal with.

It’s hard being a mixed-color kid, in general. You don’t fit in anywhere. Growing up, I was too Asian to avoid racist teasing by white kids in California, and too haole (white) to avoid racist teasing by Asian kids during our summers in Hawaii (my family is from there). Then you go to Washington D.C., and a pair of white tourists studies you like you’re a curiosity on display and asks what you are.

It’s just confusing to feel like I’m obligated to take offense every time a random guy says anything in my direction… and if I don’t, then I’m somehow betraying my entire gender.

And in case anyone is wondering, this is how I dress these days as I’m doing all this walking around town:

 

I cover up to keep the sun off my skin while I'm walking. Add to this a baseball cap and mirrored shades, and there you have it.

I cover up to keep the sun off my skin while I’m walking. Add to this a baseball cap and mirrored shades, and there you have it.

 

If a stranger is going to tell me that I’m beautiful, I’d rather they cut to the chase and just say it. Asking me “What are you?” first is NOT cool.

[NOTE: If we know each other and you ask me what I am, I wouldn’t be offended. This rant only applies to complete strangers, since that’s what we’re talking about in this unwieldy conversation about cat-calling.]

So I have this ukulele.

Recently, I came into possession of a ukulele. If you know me well, you’re probably blinking your eyes to see if you read that right. You did. I have a ukulele. I’ll explain, but first, for those of you who aren’t aware, here’s the backstory:

The ukulele has always been my favorite object of playful ridicule, which I’m slightly ashamed to admit since my family is from Hawaii. It’s not that I hate the ukulele, mind you. It’s not, like, how I’m an Arizonan who hates the Kokopelli with a mad, burning passion. (True story. I cannot stand the sight of the Kokopelli.) I just find the ukulele to be hilarious. It cracks me up, and it always has. I don’t know. I can’t explain myself.

Some sample ukulele jokes:

Q: What’s the difference between a ukulele and a trampoline?

A: People take off their shoes to jump up and down on a trampoline.

 

Q: What is “perfect pitch”?

A: When you throw the ukulele into the garbage can without hitting the rim.

 

Q: What do you call a beautiful woman on a ukulele player’s arm?

A: A tattoo.

 

And my personal favorite:

A ukulele player suddenly realizes he left his vintage ukulele out in his car overnight. He rushes outside and his heart drops when he sees that his car window is broken. Fearing the worst, he peeks through the window and finds that there are now five ukuleles in his car.

 

I used to enjoy telling my family ukulele jokes like these, until I realized one day that no one was laughing at them but me. In fact, they weren’t amused, at all. They’re from Hawaii, and they take their ukes seriously.

Then, at some point in the last 15 years, I think, the ukulele suddenly got a foothold in the Indie crowd. Inexplicably, the uke love pulses on in popular culture today. The ukulele managed to assert itself in random places, from the Arrested Development theme music of the 2000’s to the Bob’s Burgers theme music of present day. I hear it all the time on YouTube. (Garfunkel & Oates, anyone?) It’s like the ukulele spawned and sent its babies from the islands to branch out like a chain of sandwich restaurants across the U.S., and now it’s the quirky and hip answer to the jazz club xylophone of the 1930’s and all the cool kids love it. It’s become a part of our cultural acoustic landscape.

Okay, whatever. I didn’t begrudge anyone their love of the ukulele when this, um, evolution took place. I still enjoyed ukulele jokes.

BUT THEN. One day, Mom told me she was doing some research so she could make an educated choice. She was excitedly preparing to undertake a new hobby. She was going to honor the roots of her Hawaiian upbringing. She was going to buy…. Yep. A ukulele.

I didn’t laugh when she told me this, because first and foremost, I thought it was awesome that Mom was planning to learn an instrument. Also, her choice of instrument made perfect sense. She was reclaiming her cultural roots in the islands, and I was happy for her. I cheered as she selected and bought her ukulele and found herself an instructor. She got her instrument and her instructor and lessons and everything all in Hawaii (my parents live there half the year).

Fast forward two years. Mom had set the ukulele down after several months of lessons, because life happened. Life picked her up and carried her down a stream to a place that did not include playing the ukulele. The ukulele was collecting dust.

When we were up there in the Yay Area (NorCal) this last Thanksgiving, she said to me, “Kris, do you want my ukulele? You’re the musical one in the family, and I don’t want to just give it to anyone!” I understood. The ukulele held great sentimental value for her, and it had been expensive… and, well, what could I do? I had never been interested in learning the ukulele, but this was a no-brainer! I couldn’t reject it, this ukulele that had meant something to Mom, and that she was now offering to me. It held sentimental value. It was special. And besides, it was lonely. I couldn’t very well leave behind an abandoned ukulele, now, could I?

Such as it was that I, a lifelong believer that the ukulele and the xylophone are tied at first-place for Most Hilarious Instrument, wound up driving from San Jose to Phoenix with a ukulele in the back seat of the car. I’m now in possession of a ukulele. It’s sitting right here next to my desk, snug in its case, along with the book of lesson sheets Mom also gave me. Furthermore, I’ve resolved to learn it, because why should the poor ukulele go from collecting dust in California to collecting dust in (way dustier) Arizona?

Looking at the instrument, I have to admit that it’s a beautiful specimen of ukulele. Mom really did her research!

 

The ukulele that came home with us.

The ukulele that came home with us.

 

It says something on the end: NALO. Is that its name? Or is it the brand? I don’t even know. I don’t know anything about ukuleles, except for bad jokes.

Thanksgiving.

T minus 24 hours to road trip to California!

I was thinking the other day that not having human kids means that I’ll never have to feel like the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving when my kid comes home from school brimming over with warm and fuzzy stories about the “history” of “the first Thanksgiving” and I find myself unable to keep from explaining the truth behind the myth. If schools could just limit Thanksgiving holiday festivities to cute finger turkey drawings, then fine, but somehow, I don’t see them omitting the fables of the “Pilgrims and the Indians” being BFFs on “the first Thanksgiving” anytime soon.

That bit of cynicism aside, one thing that’s remained true about Thanksgiving over time is its focus on expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, which has broadened to include giving thanks for everything that we have, including our good health and each other. This is the aspect of the holiday that appeals to me the most – its focus on family.

Thanksgiving is this week Thursday, and we’re going to be spending it with my family. When I lived in France, I missed the comfortable proximity to my family more on Thanksgiving than at any other time. You always hear people saying, we should give thanks and express gratitude for our families every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and I agree with this, but still… Thanksgiving.

And I’m feeling so grateful for my family… the family that chose me, the one that I’ve chosen and the one that I inherited just by being alive.

We all have family, even if we think we don’t. If your circumstances are such that your actual family members are absent in the world, if you feel isolated and friendless, as long as there are people in the world, you have family.

In Hawaii, you’ll find this concept expressed openly and naturally by the locals, as the family mentality is a part of the local culture. If you’re walking along the beach and a child is playing in your path, it’s likely that the adult sitting nearby will call to the child, with firm affection, “Come over here, Bobby… let Auntie pass.” And you’ll look over at the parent to find him smiling and nodding at you with respect. Auntie. Think of it! A total stranger will see you coming and say to his child, let Auntie pass. (Yes, this happened to me.)

You are family. We’re all family. Humankind is a human family, and I believe this to be true: When there’s injustice in the world, we have to remember that we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to allow this to give us strength. Being united gives us strength. Our interconnectedness is an absolute, even in our moments of craving our solitude, even while counting our enemies. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember this and to feel our bond and connection with others. Being human also means that we can lose patience and hold grudges, but on Thanksgiving, I want to be mindful of our oneness and feel grateful for what that means. We walk the same earth and breathe the same air. We can help each other and commiserate and make each other laugh and offer comfort and support as easily as we can do harm.

 

Reflecting lights... candle flames on a dark morning.

Reflecting lights… candle flames on a dark morning.

 

Happy Thanksgiving week, All.

Pretty Little Liars and Korean Dramas – NOT UNLIKE

The ABC Family “young adult” television drama series Pretty Little Liars ate our brains, but we’re caught up now, so we’re re-claiming them… and our lives.

 

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

 

I don’t have much to say in our defense, but I can make the following observations: Pretty Little Liars is girly, sure, but its morbidity helps to mitigate that somewhat. It’s almost oppressively cloaked in suspicion, and we find it just dark enough to escape a total “frou-frou” designation.

Regardless of the fairly respectable tensile strength of my suspension of disbelief, I still feel some breakage in that area sometimes when we watch it. Callaghan does, too… we look at each other and go, “No way! There’s NO WAY that could happen!” Yet the absurdities keep things interesting, so they work.

At first, we weren’t into it. It was the lack of perspicuity in the plot that gnawed at our brains enough to drag us back for “just one more episode” time and again.  First, we thought it was a ghost story, then we decided it must be a murder mystery, and now we think we’re dealing with a conspiracy, or maybe even a cult. We just can’t figure it out, and that’s the thing… or one of the things.

The television series is based on a series of books by Sara Shepard. We haven’t read the books, so we just have no idea. If you’ve read the books and you know, please don’t tell me!

It started innocuously enough. I mean, there seemed to be no threat of impending addiction. Our reaction to the first episode was “Eh.” Then we watched a second episode and kind of laughed it off. Several weeks went by with no further viewing, until finally we came to the fateful evening we said, “Why not… let’s watch the third episode.” And that was it! We’d become PLL slaves. The show had become our guilty pleasure. You know how it is… you get intrigued with the characters as they develop, you start to feel affection for them, maybe, and you might find that you have a favorite or two. Next thing you know, you’re emotionally involved in their hardships and conundrums. The usual stuff that gets you hooked on a series.

I remember when televised “Korean Dramas” sucked in the entire state of Hawaii and part of California, including my family. (“Family” includes close family friends. It’s the Hawaiian Way.) At the time – this was in the 2000’s, I think – there was no T.V. in my life, with the exception of some occasional sports such as boxing and basketball; my disengagement with television added a layer of intrigue to the Korean Drama phenomenon. What was it about these shows that had so effectively captured their audience? I couldn’t relate, but I didn’t question it. We all have our things.

Now, because of Pretty Little Liars, I understand. It’s the exact same phenomenon as the Korean Dramas.

Here’s the back-story on the Korean Dramas: The whole thing got started in Hawaii with one of my many aunts and uncles, but it migrated to the mainland when Mom and Dad brought some of the tapes back with them to California (they divide their time between the two places), so it wasn’t long before others in the Bay Area got into them, too. Tapes were sometimes mailed between family members in Hawaii and California. They circulated from household to household. After a while, “Korean Dramas” became a common term in our family vernacular. It got to be where enough people were watching them that I could feel justified in exaggerating that “everyone” was hooked (I think my brother managed to escape it, though).

Inevitably, the Korean Dramas would appear on the T.V. at some point when I would go home to visit, so eventually I got to see what all the fuss was about. What I saw was simply a Korean soap opera, complete with sub-titles (a fortunate thing, since my family isn’t Korean, and they don’t know any Korean). But I also noted the following:

–The women are exquisite, beautifully attired and impeccably made-up. The men are excessively good-looking and groomed and polished into unnatural perfection, as well. (I’m sure that there are also character actors who don’t fit the supermodel mold, though.)

–There’s a lot of angst. By western male standards, anyway, the men seem unusually emotional. I remember a lot of crying, brow-furrowing and hand-wringing going on, in general.

–Disasters of various types erupt on the regular, usually domestic or romantic in nature. “Drama” is putting it mildly. The script-writers seem to write illness, death, misunderstandings, betrayal and heartbreak into the episodes with unfettered glee.

When I told Callaghan about all of this, he was like, “OH YEAH!” And he proceeded to tell me about the time he and his friend went to check in at a hotel in California, and they heard screaming, fits of crying and general mayhem emitting from behind the reception office. The next morning, they went back down to the desk and heard the same thing, all over again. They became concerned, thinking that it was domestic abuse. It wasn’t. It turned out to be the Korean Dramas that the people were watching back there.

Standard soap-opera fare, brilliantly done, apparently, if their popularity is any indication!

Now, when can we access the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars….

I AM DYING TO SUBMIT THIS PICTURE TO ENGRISH.COM

My parents recently went to Hokkaido for Dad’s annual Japan summer golf trip. As usual, shortly after their return, a package arrived for me because Mom went shopping and thoughtfully sent a few things my way. For quite a few years now I’ve been using random Japanese and Korean beauty products from Japan and Hawaii, and they’re amazing. (Not sure whether any of the brands are tested on animals. I know to avoid stuff made in China, but I have no idea as to the others.)

Here are some of the things that arrived last week:

 

Background: facial gel exfoliator and foaming cleanser (both made in Japan); Juicy Drop BB Cream (made in Korea) Foreground: a variety of sheet masks (all made in Korea)

Background: facial gel exfoliator & foaming cleanser (made in Japan); Juicy Drop BB Cream (made in Korea)
Foreground: a variety of sheet masks (all made in Korea)

 

A fun by-product of getting Asian cleansers and creams and such is the Engrish you’re sure to find on the packaging. In case you didn’t know, “Engrish” is the result of humorously botched English translations from some Asian languages; there’s a website that pays homage to it. Product packaging is a fairly reliable supplier of examples, and this blog post right here exemplifies why I would be a terrible beauty blogger: my amusement and enthusiasm in sharing the Engrish on the labels outweigh my interest in telling you about the products, themselves.

Behold:

 

This is the foaming facial cleanser... "Washing Form" in Engrish.

This is the foaming facial cleanser… “Washing Form” in Engrish.

 

(Not sure why there’s a picture of a horse on the bottle. Not sure I want to know why, either.)

Now take a look at THIS. I hope you can read it (click photo to enlarge). This is the text on the back of the one sheet mask that’s not an Epielle – it’s the one to the far left in the array photo above, with the woman’s face in the picture:

 

Contains beauty gredients for skin activity in the sheets! Helps horny clear up! Put a water skin on the face. TAP YOUR FACE FOR BEING ABSORBED COMPLETELY INTO YOUR FACE. Keep it coolly at the case status and use it.

Contains beauty gredients for skin activity in the sheets! Helps horny clear up! Put a water skin on the face. TAP YOUR FACE FOR BEING ABSORBED COMPLETELY INTO YOUR FACE. Keep it coolly at the case status and use it.

 

Awesome, right? And, bonus… it really is a lovely product!

Infernos Everywhere! Run! Or, Cover Yourselves.

Some of you appreciated my impromptu ramble about masks, so let me do another “1-Minute Topical” as a kind of Public Service announcement. Subject: sunscreen. I wear it on my face every day, no matter what. Even if there’s no sun. Even if I’m not leaving the house. It’s the one product about which I’m kind of fanatical; I’ve been using it religiously for decades.

I once read – and I truly believe – that where there’s daylight, there’s a need for sunscreen, because a room filled with daylight is a room filled with damaging UV rays. Yes, your skin can sustain damage under a cloud cover! The term “sun damage” is a misleading one, in my opinion. You don’t need golden beams of sunshine to end up with skin damaged by UV rays. You are not safe if it’s overcast. Know how vampires are affected by daylight even if they’re inside? Same danger.

 

Skin cancer happening

Skin cancer happening

 

While I envision horrible things happening to unprotected skin after sunrise, I’m not daunted. It’s easier to put on sunscreen than to hide from the daylight in a coffin until nightfall. I like an SPF of 30, minimum, in a broad-spectrum (that means UVA and UVB) formula. My current anti-UV ray weapon of choice is Eucerin’s Sensitive Skin Everyday Protection Face Lotion, SPF 30, which I’ve used since at least 2009. It’s great. (Side note: Eucerin and its parent company, Beiersdorf, claim to not test on animals, though their names don’t appear on current cruelty-free products lists… so I’m not sure what that’s about. Conflicting information alert.)

Speaking of animals, our boys’ true natures have really emerged since we’ve been here. It’s warm, and there’s carpet, so they’re letting it all hang out, so to speak. I’m not sure about Nounours (he’s harder to read), but Ronnie James is Hawaiian at heart. This is clear from the fact that he enjoys playing air-ukulele while lying on his back. We’ve caught him dancing the hula, also while lying on his back. And he loves to sit on his butt in big armchairs, as people in Hawaii are wont to do. (I know this first-hand. My family is originally from there, so I’ve spent a lot of time there, myself.)

 

WrahWrah-Bundy

 

Mmm-hmm… Ronnie James’s got the hang-loose ‘tude of the locals down (not that Al Bundy is Hawaiian), and he was obviously born with it, because his ukulele-playing, hula-dancing self has never been to Hawaii.

 

Hula dancing

Hula dancing